The Westminster Government, which began with high-minded promises of a “one-nation” approach and of renewal across the United Kingdom, is already in danger of seeing those ambitions frustrated. And unlike the tortuous process of getting Brexit through the Commons, it is not opposition but their own policies that stand to derail their aims.

The UK Government’s stance on immigration is short-sighted and counterproductive; it is almost certain to prove particularly damaging in Scotland, where the problems attending an ageing population, the need to increase rural population and the pressing need for a workforce that drives productivity and growth, as well as ensuring that public services function properly, are especially acute.

It is hard to see why this approach should have been adopted. After Brexit, the only well-founded complaints about immigration – that matters such as deportation and access to welfare services were outwith UK control – are settled. Nor, in political terms, is there any need to pander to the tiny minority (even amongst Leave voters) whose objection to immigration looks suspiciously like xenophobia.

Governments do not need to dictate quotas, points-based systems reliant on nebulously defined skills or unrealistic salaries; it is businesses, communities and public services that are best placed to identify the need to attract workers from elsewhere. It is bizarre that a Government that calls itself Conservative should opt for a centralised, state-managed, position, rather than trusting such decisions to those most affected by them.

With devolved government, flexibility should be the default position. The English regions have their own needs too, but separate tax codes for Scottish residents ought to make decision-making that works for local circumstances readily achievable.

Claims that immigration has driven down wages are much less plausible than the view that it is the ludicrously complex tax credits system, amounting to a taxpayers’ subsidy of large corporations, which is the main culprit. Immigration per se is not damaging: the evidence suggests it is a boon.

For Scotland, it is a necessity. The important powers – deporting criminals, the ability not to have to take any and every EU citizen, offering them the same benefits and state support as UK nationals – are already Westminster’s. There is no need to insist upon micromanaging the needs of local communities or businesses, let alone to dictate the priorities of a devolved government in Scotland.

A bridge too far

The Scottish Government’s announcement that it may be several years before the issues surrounding the Queensferry Crossing are resolved shows not just the deficiencies endemic in ministerial oversight of public works, but the torpor which impedes attempts to rectify matters.

This newspaper did not criticise the Government for bad weather, the formation of ice on the bridge, or for its (undoubtedly correct) decision to close the crossing on safety grounds. Our complaint is that a problem was identified almost a year before this crisis arose, and the reaction of those responsible was dilatory, complacent, and utterly beneath the standard that the public – which depends on the service, and has paid for its construction – has a right to expect.

The impressive achievements of the project – as a piece of engineering, and as public infrastructure built on time and under budget – risk being undermined by this failure. The pressure on politicians to obtain value for money is justified, but the taxpayer has a right to expect that the whole value of a tender be given the same scrutiny as the bottom line of the bill. Public works which prove unfit for purpose, thanks to short-term cost-cutting, or a lack of attention to detail from those elected to oversee infrastructure projects – be they hospitals, ferries, schools or transport links – are no saving in the long term.

Elected officials have failed to meet public expectations, the most basic of which is not just what the taxpayer ends up paying, but that the finished product comes up to scratch. That is a fair cause for criticism, and an imperative for closer oversight in any future works of this kind.